TERRAs, the non-coding RNAs that protect telomeres, are important epigenetic regulators
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IMAGE: Diagram showing how TERRAs regulate the status of telomeric chromatin. After binding to the PRC2 complex TERRAs is able to bring the complex to the telomere. Upon that binding PRC2… view more 

Credit: Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO)

In 2008, the Telomeres and Telomerase Group led by Maria A. Blasco at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) was one of the first to discover TERRAs, long non-coding telomeric RNAs that are transcribed from telomeres are are part of the telomeric chromatin. Since then, this group has set out to decipher the function of these novel and still mysterious telomeric components. In a paper published now in Nature Communications, Maria A Blasco and her collaborators Juan José Montero and Isabel López de Silanes, have taken an important step forward by discovering that TERRA play a decisive role in the assembly of telomeric heterochromatin. The authors discover that TERRAs are able to interact with components of the polycomb complex (PRC), an important epigenetic regulator of gene expression, and in this manner they facilitate the assembly of telomeric heterochromatin.

In human cells, the majority of TERRAs are transcribed from the long arm of chromosome 20. “These are one of

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